When one door closes a window opens, as the saying goes. For architect Alison Wilkinson of Wilk Design Workshop, this is exactly what happened in her personal home right outside of Seattle. “We were forced to gut the bathroom when the in-wall shower valve failed, causing water to come into our dining room below,” she said. “Originally we were panicked, then excited at the prospect of creating something spa-like and tailored just for us.”
Their bathroom was about fifteen years old and neither fulfilled their functional needs nor worked with their style. “The green tile was everywhere, and while it was beautiful in its own regard, it didn’t feel like it fit our family,” the architect explained. “There was green granite (not the cool kind) on the vanity that dated the whole room. And the jet tub in the corner was clunky and too deep to get in and out of easily. ” To keep the costs down they maintained the same footprint of the space but were able to gain more useable square footage by taking out the large tub.
Once they started construction, though, Alison and her husband hit a bit of an obstacle. Because of the leak, they had to gut the entire space and wait weeks to dry out the structure using fans and dehumidifiers. Once dry, they were able to get going with the transformation process.
Alison took a while to select the right materials for her new bathroom. She gathered samples of marble, travertine, limestone, and quartzite, but eventually decided on limestone from Mexico for its consistency in color and large-format availability. “Limestone is extra soft, so the tile was prone to chipping and crumbling,” she said. “We worked with a true artisan of a tile layer to use the same tile (12″x 24” corinthian white limestone), field cut into various sizes, then meticulously laid and leveled on the floor and wall. Extra care was paid to the joint lines to make sure we didn’t end up with a skinny tile at the wall or floor. This was the hardest part and in my opinion, the one that had the biggest impact. “
She used White Macaubas Quartzite for her vanity countertops, backsplash, and shelf which required a bit of ingenuity and engineering: “I really wanted a stone ledge that continued along the top of our backsplash, but every stone fabricator I spoke with couldn’t give me a great answer on how to support this. I didn’t feel comfortable just using silicon to hold it in place, so we put in concealed steel brackets that support the shelf and are hidden behind the drywall. Now I feel fine putting anything heavy on there – not that my facial oils and serums are heavy but you never know!”
As for functionality, Alison was keen on making it a space that both she and her husband could enjoy at the same time. “We have three young kids who are running endlessly, so we felt like we really needed a place to recharge (in some cases hide) away for a few minutes during the day,” Alison quipped. For their convenience, she designed a spacious double shower. “We had to confirm the water pressure would support this, then acoustically treat the walls so it wouldn’t sound like a waterfall in the adjacent room,” she said.
When the master bathroom was done, it turned out to be one of their favorite spaces in the home. “I think I’m still surprised by the calming effect the room has on me at the end of the day,” she shared. “Once you pass the threshold it really feels as if you’re transported into a Roman spa. Sometimes if you are quiet enough, the kids don’t even know you’re in there for a good 15 minutes!”